Wednesday, August 5, 2009
A PROTESTANT STUDENT TAKES HIS RETREAT AT MAR SABBA MONASTERY
MR. TOM MEYER, A STUDENT OF THEOLOGY AT RATISBONNE SCHOOL, REPORTS ON HIS IMPRESSIONS ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCE AT ST. SABBAS MONASTERY
Gregorian (4-8-2009) / Julian (22-7-2009)
As 21st century war jets fly over the monastery of Mar Sabbas nestled in the cliff face of the Kidron Valley in the Judean wilderness, little has been altered in the daily life of the monks here over the past 1500 years. I was given the distinct privilege to abide with them in almost every way for three days and three nights, for no Protestants are normally permitted to lodge or worship with them. The foundations of the original ascetic lifestyle remain intact in this cradle of monasticism; no women, no electricity, no running water, no communication with the outside world; the same liturgy, icons and apophatic theology. Since Constantine made Christianity the official Roman religion in the 4th century, the anchorities have been regarded by the Church as "taking the place" of the martyrs, as they daily die to self, guarding their free-will against falling prey to the passions and vices of the soul. Their aim is to be found in John 17:21, to be like Christ who is one with the Father, in the wilderness overcoming temptations with the wild beasts and the Spirit ministering to them. Their central idea is the pillar of Orthodoxy, a theosis, a deification of self, the transformation of man into the image of God. The monks preserve and spread the apostolic faith through worship, liturgy, monasticism, and missions.
As I arrived from Jerusalem on January 1, 2009 I was greeted at the heavily fortified entrance and given a brief tour of the complex by a Russian monk in broken English, viewing the tomb of the desert fathers Sabba and John of Damascus. St. Sabba founded the site in the late 5th century while living in a cave opposite the existing monastery, when in a vision he saw a pillar of fire and found a cave behind it oriented to the east which would become the main sanctuary; today it is called the chapel of Saint Nicholas. The entire site is extraordinarily clean and well maintained with remains visible from the Byzantine period to today. The monks do not use standard Greenwich time but ancient Roman/Byzantine time as in Scripture (....in the 6th hour he was crucified...Luke 23:44...aka noon). The food served to me was to be eaten apart from the 30 monks because I am a Protestant. The food served was a hearty portion of cold stew consisting of no meat but potatoes and vegetables, with bread, salad, fruit and wine. Their daily life consists as follows. The day begins at 2:00 a.m. with a three hour service in the chapel of St. Nicholas. I was permitted to partake in the entire service save the Sacraments. The large cave is shrouded in darkness being only lit by candles with 800 year old icons and the bones of desert martyrs decorating its walls. While at Mar Sabba I finished memorizing the book of Revelation, and it was in this service that I was first able to tell the entire book to myself from heart. The monks are awoken one hour prior to the service by a loud bell ringing 33 times, then again moments before the service starts they are summoned by the sound of a hammer knocking on wood, reminding them of Noah calling the beasts into the ark to save them from doom. As the monks enter the ark of the church their procedure is to individually venerate various icons by bowing to them and kissing them, as well as the 136 skulls of the martyrs. They believe the bones not only retain their story but the Holy Spirit. The service is conducted entirely in Greek with reading from the Septuagint and their liturgy, culminating with the Sacraments. From 5:00 to 8:00 a.m. is a time of prayer and rest save for those who prepare the main and only meal of the day served at 9:00 a.m., save for the weekend when there are two meals served daily. From 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 pm is a time of work and study. From 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. is the evening Vespers service which is a time of prayer, singing and reading that begins in the narthex of the other main chapel, the Church of the Annunciation. The monks would not permit me to venerate the icons and during the service I first had to stand out of the chapel in the entrance way, out of paradise, but on the second day I was kindly invited into the chapel with them. Following Vespers there is a one hour break till the 30 minute evening prayer service starting at 5:00 p.m., which is followed by a time of devotions by the Abbot to his flock of which I was excluded. From 6:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. is a time of prayer, meditation and rest.
The three days and three nights I stayed with the monks was everything I imagined but nothing I expected, for seeing something is different than being told about it. The living conditions would be considered good for desert anchorites. The 110 rooms in the lavra are small 11 feet by 11 feet, but warm and decorated. Each room has one bed, desk, and lamp with three blankets, and a tub of well water to wash their hands and their feet. After the first day I felt very welcome by most of the monks, especially the five who spoke some English and developed a real affinity with them. The monks were very curious about America and its new president and considered these days the birth pangs. I was scheduled to stay seven days but only stayed three, for I based my decision on the unwritten rules of hospitality, not wanting to wear out my welcome, and the fact that I did not want to invade their high holy Christmas services. This was advantageous as they asked me to return to them, and next time to bring some maps of the Holy Land.
By Tom Lasseter / McClatchy Newspapers
DALEKUSHI, Russia — The fire consumed the priest's body, charring bones and flesh, and raged for hours. The bodies of his wife, Oksana, and their children, 10, 7 and 5, lay close to Andrei Nikolayev's corpse in the ashes of their simple gingerbread house in the Russian countryside.
A government investigator suspected arson, and many observers blamed the family's deaths on drunks who broke into churches looking for icons to sell for vodka money. It was rumored that Nikolayev, worried that his church wasn't safe from burglars, kept money and relics at his home, townspeople said.
Some two and a half years after the December 2006 fire, no one has been arrested or charged. Russian officials, without citing any evidence, now blame the victims.
Nikolayev had been on a mission to save a small corner of his country from population decline, alcoholism and other ills. He was 32 when he died about a month before the Russian Orthodox Christmas holidays.
Acquaintances said that Nikolayev, who'd arrived in the mid-1990s to serve Dalekushi and nearby villages separated from each other by hayfields and connected by dirt roads, was determined to make a difference. He'd grown up in Kuvshinovo, about 16 miles to the west, where workers at the paper mill earn a few hundred dollars a month.
His church, Holy Trinity, a once-grand neoclassical building flanked by sets of white columns, was falling apart. Opened in 1836 on a feudal estate, with lush landscaping and ponds, the church near Dalekushi was converted to a Communist Party youth camp in the 1930s, then used as a milk-processing plant, a recreation center and finally as a storehouse for fertilizer.
Nikolayev began raising money to repair the building. His sermons implored villagers to stop drinking. It wasn't a popular message.
Less than two months before his death, Nikolayev sat before a TV studio audience in Moscow with his shoulder-length brown hair and goatee, wearing a black robe with a large gold cross. TVTs, a channel controlled by the Moscow city government, had invited him to talk about the dangers of alcoholism.
Nikolayev said he'd fought off seven robbery attempts at his church.
"I had to defend it — forgive me — with a rifle in my hands," he said.
Footage showed him walking past the ruins of his old house near Dalekushi, which had been burned to the ground about a year earlier — by drunks, Nikolayev told friends at the time. If he hadn't taken his family on an outing that night, the priest said, his wife and children would have been killed.
"It's very difficult to live in this village," he told the audience. "It's especially difficult if you are a priest and you have a family. . . . I have always been terribly concerned about my family."
A senior federal fire inspector said the blaze that incinerated the Nikolayevs was probably arson. After national, and then Western, news media reported the story and its suggestion of Russia's decline, officials clammed up. Unnamed officials started blaming an electrical problem or murder-suicide by Nikolayev.
When a McClatchy reporter visited Dalekushi, the government administrator in charge, Alexander Volkov, said: "The priest burned down his own house from the inside."
However, Vera Davidova, a neighbor, said that on the night of his death, Nikolayev was out in the road in front of his house, happily waiting for his children to get home from a market.
The spokeswoman for the regional investigative committee of the prosecutor's office that's handling the incident, Karina Beketova, had no comment. She didn't say whether there's an ongoing inquiry.
Like others in the village, Davidova wouldn't speculate about who might have killed the priest. She did mention that a lot of poor people needed cash for alcohol.
One woman who knew Nikolayev when he was studying to become a priest said that he'd recently confided that his family had been getting threats.
Asked who was responsible for the intimidation campaign, and perhaps for the priest's death, Zinaida Zhirnova said: "Everyone there gets drunk, so it's hard to know who was threatening him."
Rural Russia Dying of Poverty, Neglect and Alcoholism
Russia In Decline: Gallery
The Relics of St. Herman of Alaska(1 of 3)
The Relics of St. Herman of Alaska(2 of 3)
To view Part 3 you must request a copy of this documentary at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
In the Greek Horologion of 1897 the derivation of this Feast is explained:
"Because of the illnesses that occur in August, it was customary, in former times, to carry the Venerable Wood of the Cross through the streets and squares of Constantinople for the sanctification of the city, and for relief from sickness. On the eve (July 31), it was taken out of the imperial treasury, and laid upon the altar of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia (the Wisdom of God). From this Feast until the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, they carried the Cross throughout the city in procession, offering it to the people to venerate. This is the Procession of the Venerable Cross."
Throughout the period of the Dormition Fast beginning on August 1 through the 14th we simultaneously celebrate the Feast of the Procession of the Venerable Wood of the Cross. Unlike the September 14 observance, this commemoration is considered to be a minor feast in comparison and significance, but it does have the bringing out of the Cross and veneration by the faithful like the September feast. It is the first of three "Feasts of the Lord" in the month of August, the other two being the Transfiguration (August 6) and the Icon of Christ "Not Made by Hands" otherwise known as the Holy Mandylion (August 16).
It should be noted that in the Russian Orthodox Church, this feast also celebrates the Baptism of Russia which occurred on August 1, 988. In the "Account of the Order of Services in the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Great Church of the Dormition", compiled in 1627 by order of Patriarch Philaret of Moscow and All Rus, there is the following explanation of the Feast: "On the day of the Procession of the Venerable Cross there is a church procession for the sanctification of water and for the enlightenment of the people, throughout all the towns and places." Knowledge of the day of the actual Baptism of Rus was preserved in the Chronicles of the sixteenth century: "The Baptism of the Great Prince Vladimir of Kiev and all Rus was on August 1."
It is customary to have a crucession (a procession headed by the Cross) and celebrate the Lesser Blessing of Water on August 1. Because of the blessing of holy water, this holy day is sometimes called "Savior of the Water." The Greeks perform this ceremony on the first of every month, but the Russians do it on August 1 specifically to commemorate the baptism of the Russian people. There may also be celebrated on this day the Rite of Blessing New Honey, for which reason the day is also referred to as "Savior of the Honey".
According to Saint Nikolai Velimirovich in his Prologue explanation of this feast, he adds a few additional significant meanings to this feast:
"This feast was instituted by a mutual agreement of the Greeks and Russians at the time of the Greek Emperor Manuel and the Russian Prince Andrew in commemoration of the simultaneous victories of the Russians over the Bulgarians and the Greeks over the Saracens [in 1164]. In both of these battles, crosses were carried by the armies from which heavenly rays shone. It was therefore instituted that, on August 1, the Cross be carried first to the middle of the Church of the Divine Wisdom [Hagia Sophia] and after that, along the streets for the people to venerate as a commemoration of the miraculous help of the Cross in previous battles. This was not an ordinary cross but the true Honorable Cross which was kept in the church of the imperial court. On July 31, the Honorable Cross was carried from the imperial court to the Church of the Holy Wisdom of God and from there it was carried along the streets for the consecration of the earth and the air. Finally, on August 14, it was again returned to the church of the imperial palace."
Though there are some truth to the words of St. Nikolai concerning the origins of this feast in Russia, in actuality this feast dates much earlier for the Romans of Constantinople. This is clarified by Bulgakov who describes this miraculous event that happened at the same time between two Orthodox armies as a seperate feast from the older Procession of the Venerable Cross. In fact, we know that the origin of the Feast of the Procession of the Venerable Cross goes back to the 9th century or earlier. Russia began to celebrate it at the beginning of the 15th century. The commemoration of the mutual victories of the Russian and Roman armies with the aid of the Cross dates back to the date of the actual battle in 1164.
To better understand the origins and rubrics of the celebration of this feast among the Romans of Constantinople, I refer you to the following information provided within the excellent article by Holger A. Klein titled Sacred Relics and Imperial Ceremonies at the Great Palace of Constantinople. He writes:
"The Persian invasion of Syria-Palestine in 614 and the Arab conquest of Jerusalem in 637/38 resulted in a number of important relic translations during the reign of Emperor Herakleios (610-641) and changed Constantinople’s status as a repository of sacred relics for centuries. As suggested by the Chronicon Paschale, the relic of the Holy Lance, Sponge, and the True Cross from Jerusalem were recovered from the Persians during the fall of 629, transferred to the capital, and exhibited for public veneration in the church of Hagia Sophia for several days. While Emperor Herakleios, according to some sources, triumphantly returned the relic of the True Cross from Constantinople to Jerusalem and exalted it in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on 21 March of the following year, the unexpected loss of the Holy City to the Arabs soon necessitated the relic’s transfer back into the capital, where it was now safeguarded by the emperor and kept inside the confines of the imperial palace.
"The forced relocation of the ‘larger part’ of the relic of the True Cross from Jerusalem to Constantinople and its presumed deposition in the imperial palace not only ensured the Empire’s safety and prosperity for the future, it also re-affirmed the emperor’s role as the guardian and protector of Christianity’s most sacred treasure. While a smaller portion of the relic, associated with Constantine the Great and set in a bejeweled processional Cross, had already been used in imperial processions in the beginning of the sixth century, and is known to have preceded the imperial army on military campaigns during the reign of Emperor Maurice, it was the alleged return of the True Cross from Jerusalem that effectively transformed Constantinople into a ‘New Jerusalem’ and the imperial palace into a locus sanctus at the heart of the Empire. The possession of the True Cross not only reinforced the emperor’s divine mandate but also rendered him the most important distributor of relics of the True Cross in the Christian world, a position future emperors would eagerly exploit in building political alliances with Christian rulers and potentates in Western Europe.
"Where the relic of the True Cross from Jerusalem was originally kept cannot be determined with certainty. In the second half of the seventh century, when Bishop Arkulf visited Constantinople on his way back from the Holy Land, a portion of the relic was, at least for the time of its public veneration during Holy Week, kept inside Hagia Sophia in a 'very large and beautiful chest [...] to the north of the interior of the building.' Arkulf’s testimony has often been considered as an indication that the main relic of the True Cross had, by the seventh century, been entrusted to the care of the Patriarch. Judging from later accounts, however, it is more likely that the relic of the True Cross from Jerusalem and the so-called ‘Cross of Constantine’, first mentioned by Theodore Anagnostes, were both safeguarded inside the imperial palace, presumably in the skeuophylakion, and removed only temporarily for specific liturgical and ceremonial functions. As recorded in Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos’ Book of Ceremonies [10th cent.], important relics of the True Cross were still kept in the skeuophylakion of the imperial palace during the tenth century and taken out on specific feasts and occasions. One such feast was a six-day-long festival celebrated in mid-Lent that included a public display and veneration of the relic of the True Cross inside Hagia Sophia and a related imperial ceremony performed in the palace.
"According to the Book of Ceremonies, celebrations started on the third Sunday of Lent in the skeuophylakion of the imperial palace. Between the third and sixth ode of Orthros [Matins], the 'three glorious and life-giving Crosses', were removed from the treasury, embalmed by the protopapas, and taken to the Nea Ekklesia, to be venerated by all. After Orthros was concluded, the Crosses were taken to the gallery of the church, where the clergies of the Nea and the imperial palace jointly intoned the troparia of the Crucifixion. At this time, the emperor and his co-emperors were given the opportunity to venerate and kiss the precious and life-giving relics. Then, the three Crosses were separated from each other. Accompanied by the clergy of the Nea, a deacon carried one of them back down to the main level of the church to be displayed for further veneration. The second Cross was taken over by the papias of the Great Palace, who, accompanied by the palace clergy, the protopapas of the church of St. Stephen, and the diaitarioi of the palace, carried it in festive procession through the Heliakon [of the Chrysotriklinos] and from the Chrysotriklinos into the Lausiakos, where it was displayed for the veneration by members of the senate. The Cross was then taken to the Church of the Protomartyr Stephen in the Daphne palace, where it remained over night. On the following day, the papias took the relic to Hagia Sophia, where it was displayed for veneration by the faithful during the rest of the week. The third Cross never left the gallery of the Nea. After none on Friday, when public venerations had ended at Hagia Sophia, the papias and the clergy of the Nea brought the respective Crosses back into the palace. Finally, between the third and sixth ode of Orthros on Sunday, the protopapas and the skeuophylax returned all Crosses to the skeuophylakion.
"What is striking about this description is not only the fact that, by the tenth century, three Crosses of the glorious and life-giving Wood, were kept in the skeuophylakion of the imperial palace, but also that these relics were employed in a complex ceremony that involved their display in three distinct locations within the imperial palace – the Nea Ekklesia, the Lausiakos, and the Church of St. Stephen – as well as in the church of Hagia Sophia.
"Another, closely related ceremony involving the True Cross is described in the Book of Ceremonies for the week before and the two weeks following August 1. Once again, the ceremony started between the third and sixth ode of Orthros in the skeuophylakion of the palace. After the relic was embalmed, it was taken to an unspecified church within the imperial palace, where it was displayed for veneration by the emperors. The relic was then taken to the Lausiakos, where it was set up to be venerated by the members of the senate. Afterwards, the Cross was taken to the church of St. Stephen, from where it was carried through each of the quarters of the capital to 'cleanse and sanctify all places and houses of the God-guarded and imperial city; and not only the buildings, but also the walls of the city and its suburbs.' When the relic returned from its journey on August 13, it was first brought to the Chrysotriklinos and placed on the imperial throne. Then, the papias, accompanied by the protopapas and the clergy, took the relic through the rooms of the imperial palace to cleanse and sanctify them as well. For a short while thereafter, the relic was kept in the oratory of St. Theodore, before the papias carried it back to the Church of the Virgin of the Pharos after Vespers. Here, the relic was received by the skeuophylax of the palace and returned to the treasury between the third and sixth ode of Orthros."
O Lord, save Your people, and bless Your inheritance. Grant victories to the Orthodox and over their adversaries; and preserve your habitation by virtue of Your Cross.
As You were voluntarily raised upon the Cross for our sake, grant mercy to those who are called by Your Name, O Christ God; make all Orthodox Christians glad by Your power, granting them victories over their adversaries, by bestowing on them the invincible trophy, Your weapon of peace.
HYMN OF PRAISE TO THE HONORABLE CROSS OF CHRIST
by Saint Nikolai Velimirovich
The Honorable Cross of Christ
Before it, all honorably prostrate,
By the power of the Cross of Christ
From temptation, we are redeemed.
The Holy Cross is mightier than the demons
And from every earthly king,
From sickness, the Cross saves
And from the assaults of barbarians.
Prince Andrew, by the power of the Cross
Enslaved lands, saved;
King Manuel, by the power of the Cross
The Saracens, gloriously destroyed.
From the armies of pagans,
From the tyrannical conquerors,
From all evils demonstrated that
The power of the Cross is mightier.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Visions Outside the Church
The Marian Apparitions: Divine Intervention or Delusion?
Journey to Medjugorje
Mary-Making in Herzegovina: From Apparitions to Partitions
The Myth of Medjugorje
Marian Apparitions and the Yugoslav Crisis
Medjugorje, Successful Satanic Cult
THE TRUTH ABOUT MEDJUGORJE
Globalization and Medjugorje
Medjugorje -- A False Apparition
Medjugorje Deception or Miracle?
Politicizing the Virgin Mary: The Instance of the Madonna of Medjugorje
The Medjugorje Hoax
The Troublesome Priest of Medjugorje
Vatican Denounces Group's Claim of Seeing the Virgin Mary More than 40,000 Times as 'work of the devil'
The Appearances At Fatima And ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY
THE ORTHODOX CHURCH SPEAKS OUT ABOUT THE FATIMA APPARITION
The Vatican and Russia
Former Soviet Country Celebrates Lourdes Apparitions (This is unfortunate!)
The Most Holy Mother of Jesus (This also is unfortunate, along with a creepy "Agni Parthene" being chanted in the background)
Devoted Atheists Grow in Numbers, Goals
Faithless Looking to Give and Receive Community Support
By G. JEFFREY MACDONALD
July 19, 2009
Valerie Celeste Coffey is a woman on a mission. For six years, her small group of local atheists has gathered to exchange bemused stories about the things Christians do in worship and swap tips for raising confident skeptics.
But on a recent Wednesday evening here at the Java Room cafe, Ms. Coffey said the time had come to take the meetings in hand.
"I don't think this group has a vision," said Coffey, a freelance editor who lives in nearby Boxborough, Mass. "We need to figure out what our values are."
Ten days later, something unprecedented happened: The group met over Sunday brunch for a structured discussion with preplanned topics.
The ranks of nonbelievers are on the rise, research suggests, and as they seek out each other online and in small groups, they are increasingly looking to do more than just vent.
Some are adopting rituals themselves, from de-baptisms to wedding ceremonies, as a way to cement ties among members. Others are organizing science-related outings or enrolling in community-service programs. Nationwide, atheists' groups are now treading, sometimes gingerly, into unfamiliar territory.
"This is the transition moment right now," says Dale McGowan, author of "Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion." "Some groups are really diving in [to foster a robust sense of community], and some of them are holding their noses and standing on the diving board. They're not quite sure what to do."
Some 15 percent of Americans claim no religious affiliation, up from 8.2 percent in 1990, according to Trinity College's American Religious Identification Survey, released in March. Also, the American Humanist Association claims 20,000 financial supporters. That marks a doubling from five years ago, says spokeswoman Karen Frantz.
Moreover, signs point to non-believers seeking fellowship as never before. During the first five months of 2009, 95 new atheist groups have formed through meetup.com, bringing the US total to 372. That's up from 59 in 2005, says Blair Scott, director of national affiliates for American Atheists, a networking and advocacy organization. Known parenting groups for nonbelievers have proliferated from just one in 2005 to 33 in 2009, adds Mr. McGowan, the author.
The intersection of the two trends is evident across the United States. For example, the North Alabama Freethought Association, which has grown from 50 members in 2006 to 350 today, drew 30 people to a camping event in May and runs regular outings to visit caves or other science-related sites.
"It used to be that these atheist groups ... met almost in hiding," says American Atheists spokesman David Silverman. "Now they're doing a lot more stands at town parties, a lot more trash pickups, a lot more blood donations -- a lot more stuff that gets their group out and noticed."
Some say such initiatives are necessary to improve an image problem. Rebecca Grieve founded South Lake Atheists and Freethinkers in Groveland, Fla., last year because she felt the nearby atheist group in Orlando "wasn't doing enough in the community." Through an Adopt-A-Lake project, the new group monitors a section of Lake Minneola and promotes its efforts on a big sign at Clermont Waterfront Park.
"A lot of atheist groups are really negative," says Ms. Grieve, who now lives in Derry, N.H., and describes herself as a secular humanist. "They're not standing for anything. They're not making a difference.... I want to be accepted just like everybody else. We need to be showing people through example that we're decent people."
For some, however, the status quo suits just fine. Of the monthly Atheists of Greater Lowell (Mass.) gatherings, where no one convenes or adjourns the group, Paul Ratner of Lowell says: "I like this group as it is now."
Rob Butler of Westford. Mass., agrees: "I love coming here because I can just say whatever's on my mind, and people won't be offended by it."
In some ways, the lack of structure or ritual has been a defining characteristic of atheist groups. McGowan notes that many atheists bristle at ritual because it feels too religious or superstitious. American Atheists' Mr. Silverman insists, "there are no rituals with us."
But America's 27 Ethical Societies, which attract many nontheist attendees to their humanist "platforms," or services, see growing interest in rituals, ranging from children's education to weddings, according to membership chairman Thomas Hoeppner. Through ritual, "you build up not just common intellectual values, but the emotional and personal connection with people," says Mr. Hoeppner, a member of the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago. "That's what it's all about."
"So when one of my dear friends in his 80s lost his wife, he'd be over at our house every Sunday afternoon for dinner," he says. "That's a ritual for us."
In Florida, atheists are pioneering a new ritual: de-baptism. Since last year, American Atheists' Florida state director Greg McDowell has been donning a mock clerical robe and officiating at services where family and friends come to watch the baptized renounce their baptisms.
The events spoof baptisms by using blow-dryers in the place of baptismal waters. They culminate in certificates for the "de-baptized" and letters to churches requesting that the names of those de-baptized be removed from baptismal rolls.
Elsewhere, ties that bind the faithless continue to grow stronger, even without ritual per se. After one member of the North Alabama Freethought Association was robbed earlier this year, fellow members collected a few hundred dollars to see him through to payday. And when another was injured in a motorcycle accident, atheists brought meals every day for him and his caretakers.
"It makes me sit back and smile to know that this community has built itself up in a way that they're looking out for each other, watching each other's backs, and supporting each other," says Mr. Scott, who founded the Alabama group six years ago. "It almost makes me feel fatherly -- like you raised your child right."
Copyright © 2009 ABC News Internet Ventures
Sunday, August 2, 2009
On January 18, 2004, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople recognized Mother Maria Skobtsova as a saint along with her son Yuri, the priest who worked closely with her, Fr. Dimitri Klépinin, and her close friend and collaborator Ilya Fondaminsky. All four died in German concentration camps.
An excellent resource of material along with their illustrious lives can be read here.
Nicopolis ad Istrum
Nicopolis ad Istrum was founded by Emperor Trajan around 101–106 AD, at the junction of the Yantra River with the Danube, in memory of his victory over the Dacians. The town reached its apogee during the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian (117 - 138 AD), the Antonines (138 - 180 AD) and the Severan dynasty (193 – 235 AD). In 447, the town was destroyed by Attila's Huns.
Nicopolis ad Istrum can be said to have been the birthplace of Germanic literary tradition. In the 4th century, the Gothic bishop, missionary and translator Ulfilas (Wulfila) obtained permission from Emperor Constantius II to immigrate with his flock of converts to Moesia and settle near Nicopolis ad Istrum in 347-8. There, he invented the Gothic alphabet and translated the Bible from Greek to Gothic.
Ulfilas converted many among the Goths, preaching an Arian Christianity, which, when they reached the western Mediterranean, set them apart from their overwhelmingly Orthodox neighbors and subjects. Many believe that it was the ongoing Arianism of Gothic Christianity that eventually led to the addition of the Filioque to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed at the Council of Toledo, Spain in 589, in a creedal attempt to bolster the divinity of the Son of God.
2. Bulgaria Archaeologists Discover 13th Century Monastery, French Jewelry
In the yard of the St Peter and St. Paul Church in the medieval Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo, Ovcharov and his team found part of a wall and medieval coins within it that are dated from 1210 to 1240.
Ovcharov believes that this was part of the Monastery of the Bulgarian Patriarch in the 13th century. This was the time of the Bulgarian Tsars Kaloyan (1197-1207), Boril (1207-1218), and Ivan Asen II (1218-1241).
The monastery is believed to have been the center of the Tarnovo Patriarchate at the time of the Union of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church with the Catholic Church in the Vatican that latest from 1204, when Pope Innocent III declared Kaloyan "Emperors of Wallachians and Bulgarians" ("Rex Wallahorum et Bulgarorum"), until 1246.
The monastery was reconstructed after Veliko Tarnovo's conquest by the Ottoman Turkish Empire in 1393, later hosted the Tarnovo Bishop. Its remains were fully destroyed in 1913 by an earthquake.
In the 14th century as the Byzantine Empire weakened Tarnovo claimed to be the Third Rome based on its preeminent cultural influence in the Balkans and the Slavic Orthodox world.
3. Bulgaria: an Archaeology and Treasure Hunting Paradise. Or Hell
To put it briefly, many people - including most Bulgarians - do not realize that all of Bulgaria's territory is literally dotted with archaeological objects from all time periods. Any single rock you pick up from the ground in Bulgaria often would turn out to have a several-thousand-year history of human interaction!
That includes a whole variety of ancient and medieval civilizations - Prehistory, Neolith, Ancient Thrace (which, by the way, is an amazing but widely unknown civilization), Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the two Bulgarian Empires, the Latin Empire of the Crusaders, the Ottoman Empire...
The Vinland Map
4. Vinland Map of America No Forgery, Expert Says
The 15th century Vinland Map, the first known map to show part of America before explorer Christopher Columbus landed on the continent, is almost certainly genuine, a Danish expert said Friday.
Controversy has swirled around the map since it came to light in the 1950s, many scholars suspecting it was a hoax meant to prove that Vikings were the first Europeans to land in North America -- a claim confirmed by a 1960 archaeological find....
The Vinland Map is not a "Viking map" and does not alter the historical understanding of who first sailed to North America. But if it is genuine, it shows that the New World was known not only to Norsemen but also to other Europeans at least half a century before Columbus's voyage.
5. Finding King Herod's Tomb
After a 35-year search, an Israeli archaeologist is certain he has solved the mystery of the biblical figure’s final resting place. Long an object of scholarly as well as popular fascination, Herodium, also called Herodion, was first positively identified in 1838 by the American scholar Edward Robinson, who had a knack for locating biblical landmarks. But where precisely was the king entombed? At the summit of Herodium? At the base? Inside the mountain itself? Josephus didn't say. By the late 1800s, Herod's tomb had become one of biblical archaeology's most sought-after prizes. And for more than a century archaeologists scoured the site. Finally, in 2007, Ehud Netzer of Hebrew University announced that after 35 years of archaeological work he had found Herod's resting place.
6. Unique Aramaic Inscription From First Century Found in Jerusalem and 2,000-year-old ritual cup found in Old City of Jerusalem
A team of archaeologists has found a unique Aramaic inscription on a stone cup commonly used for ritual purity during the first century, in a dig on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The text isn’t eroded but researchers have been unable to decipher it; the inscription is deliberately cryptic. They do know it contains the Hebrew word for God, YHWH or Yahweh.
7. Pope Confirms Visit to Shroud of Turin; New Evidence on Shroud Emerges
A recent study by French scientist Thierry Castex has revealed that on the shroud are traces of words in Aramaic spelled with Hebrew letters. A Vatican researcher, Barbara Frale, told Vatican Radio July 26 that her own studies suggest the letters on the shroud were written more than 1,800 years ago.
Aerial map of Altinum
8. The Ancient Roman City of Altinum Rises from Venice Lagoon and Ancient Roman City Rises Again and The Map of Altinum, Ancestor of Venice
Aerial photographs taken during a drought two years ago have enabled Italian researchers to produce the most detailed map ever of the ancient Roman city of Altinum, considered by some historians to be the ancestor of modern-day Venice. Archaeologists have known for decades that Altinum, a Roman trading center that thrived between the 1st and 5th centuries C.E., lay below these farm fields. Raised 2to 3 meters above the surrounding marshy lagoon by centuries of human habitation, the city was approximately the size of Pompeii. Its history could stretch back to the Bronze Age, and it dominated the region for at least 600 years before it became a part of the Roman Empire.
9. Holy Grail Could be in Kilwinning
Kilwinning could rival Rosslyn Chapel as a major tourist attraction in the wake of claims it is the final resting place of the Holy Grail.
The Irvine Herald can reveal an historic archaeological dig is to take place in the town’s Abbey grounds.
The project is to be carried out by Irvine Bay Regeneration after actor turned historian, Jamie Morton, a recognised expert on Freemasonry, revealed the artefact used by Christ at The Last Supper could have been hidden in the town by the Knights Templar.
10. Attack on Ancient Babylon: Photos
Babylon's Ancient Wonder, Lying in Ruins
History Not Served By U.S. Presence
By Nada Bakri
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
HILLA, Iraq -- Maytham Hamzah cast his eyes toward the remains of King Nebuchadnezzar's guest palace in Babylon, one of the world's first great cities. He smiled, bitterly.
"They destroyed the whole country," Hamzah, the head of the Babylon museum, said of U.S. forces in Iraq. "So what are a few old bricks and mud walls in comparison?"
U.S. forces did not exactly destroy the 4,000-year-old city, home of one of the world's original seven wonders, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Even before the troops arrived, there was not much left: a mound of broken mud-brick buildings and archaeological fragments in a fertile plain between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.
But they did turn it into Camp Alpha, a military base, shortly after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Their 18-month stay there caused "major damage" and represented a "grave encroachment on this internationally known archeological site," a report released this month in Paris by the United Nations' cultural agency, UNESCO, says.
The ruins stretch over a rectangular area measuring 2,100 acres along the western banks of the Euphrates. The site consists of Nebuchadnezzar's palace, which then-President Saddam Hussein rebuilt in the 1980s; the remains of the Temple of Ninmakh; and a palace for royal guests. In addition, there is the Lion of Babylon, a 2,600-year-old sculpture, and the remains of the Ishtar Gate, the most beautiful of the eight gates that once ringed the perimeter of the town. It still bears the symbols of Babylonian gods.
According to the report, which comes after five years of investigation by a team of Iraqi and international experts, foreign troops and contractors bulldozed hilltops and then covered them with gravel to serve as parking lots for military vehicles and trailers. They drove heavy vehicles over the fragile paving of once-sacred pathways.
The report also says that forces built barriers and embankments to protect the base, pulverizing ancient pottery and bricks that were engraved with cuneiform characters. They dug trenches where they stored fuel tanks for their helicopters, which landed near an ancient theater. Among the structures that suffered the most damage, according to the report, were the Ishtar Gate and a processional thoroughfare. Experts also say troops filled their sandbags with soil from a site that was littered with archaeological fragments.
Bricks were looted as well -- both those of Babylonian vintage and newer ones that Hussein used to rebuild parts of the ruins. The latter variety was emblazoned with an ode to himself.
"The damage was so great," said Maryam Mussa, an official from the Iraqi state board of heritage and antiquities, which is in charge of the site. "It would be so difficult to repair it, and nothing can make up for it."
Spokesmen for the U.S. military in Iraq did not respond to requests for comment. But the military has previously said that looting would have been far worse had it not been for the presence of its troops. The military also said in 2005 that it had discussed setting up the base with Iraqi archaeologists in charge of the site.
The site has been closed to the public since 2003. Facing mounting criticism from archaeologists in Iraq and around the world, troops vacated it in summer 2004. It was reopened this June, despite warnings from experts that the ruins might suffer further damage unless they were first restored and given proper protection.
Many residents of Hilla, a town 60 miles south of Baghdad that sits near the ruins, said they have not been to the site because they can't bear to see the damage.
"What ruins are you talking about?" said Jawad Kathem, a 55-year-old owner of a small grocery store in the village of Jumjumah, a few miles away. "There is nothing left of it. It was all destroyed and looted."
"They are occupying forces," said Sabah Hassan, a 41-year-old resident of Hilla who owns a cafe near the ruins. "Nobody can tell them what to do."
On a recent day, wind swept across the deserted ruin as Hamzah, the museum's head, gave a tour to visitors. He recited the history of ancient Babylon with the enthusiasm of someone who had been waiting for years to share his knowledge. The gates of the museum were locked.
"From this room, King Nebuchadnezzar ruled his kingdom," he said as he waved his hand across a spacious room where Nebuchadnezzar II is believed to have sat. The king turned Babylon into one of the wonders of the ancient world. Historians say he was prouder of his construction projects than he was of his many military victories.
Several efforts to restore Babylon have been announced in the past six years, but none has made progress. Now, with security in Iraq improving, officials hope to start work on a $700,000, two-year project funded by the U.S. State Department to restore the site. The United Nations is also trying to name the place a World Heritage site, a designation that would provide support and protection.
"Of course this is not enough, but it is better than nothing," lamented Mussa, the site director. "We had hoped that work would start this year."
On her desk were papers detailing the damage, gathering dust.
of Western Theology as Expounded
by Thomas Aquinas:
Simplified Version in Dialogue Format
O. - Is God immutable?
S. – Yes
O. – Is God pure simplicity (actus purus)?
S. – Yes
O. - Is God’s pure simplicity meant to protect the immutability of God?
S. – Yes
O. - If God is pure simplicity without any complexity, then would you say there is no potentiality in God?
S. – Yes
O. – If there is no potentiality in God, then the divine essence, existence, and energy are identical?
S. – Yes
O. – If the divine essence, existence, and energy are identical, then is God only in a full state of activity (energy)?
S. – Yes
O. – Then would you agree that if God is in a fully activated state, He is so by necessity?
S. – Yes
O. – And there is no distinction between the action and power of God from his essence?
S. – No, God is pure energy.
O. – Do you distinguish the energies of God from the acts of God?
S. – No, they are both the same created works of God.
At the very core of its doctrine, Orthodox theology differs from Scholastic theology. The Greek Fathers clearly taught that God is not actus purus but possesses many energies and powers (potentialities) which are utterly united, neither separating nor confounding with one another within the incorruptible, inconceivable and utterly simple essence of the one triadic divinity. The immutability of God has no need of being protected by the actus purus. There is no need for the actus purus at all. Rather, it is protected by the incomprehensible and incommunicable essence of God.
Aquinas renders the divine energy into the divine essence as a necessity. The Orthodox Church would consider it blasphemous that God must act out of necessity, for God remains within His essence and within the three hypostaseis. God is not Being regulated by His energy but He Himself regulates His energy. God is not pure energy but the energizer.
The Church Fathers teach that God is the energizer, that energy is the uncreated activity of God, and the accomplished work (or creature) is the act of God. The West, however, fails to distinguish the energy of God from the acts (works) of God. The energy of God is best rendered as activity rather than act. The finished act indeed is created, but the activity itself is uncreated. This activity is also known as grace, and if it is uncreated then it is divine.
To infer created grace (energy) in God is a heresy which logically leads to complete atheism and/or Greek mythology. According to the Church Fathers, created energy always indicates a created nature; and uncreated energy always indicates uncreated essence.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Being clairvoyant, the Elder knew what happened, and when the boy returned, Papoulakis repeated exactly the same words Abbot Agapios had used to “press” him: “Eat Dimitris. All day long grinding grain; in the evening we eat the bread.” The boy shook with fear, because Papoulakis always admonished him to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. In addition, as Dimitris was leaving after having delivered the letter, Dimitrios Paxinos, a resident of Lefki, gave him twelve pears for the Elder and four for himself. The boy was holding the pears in a kerchief, and before he said anything, Papoulakis opened the cloth, took twelve pears on his own, and left the four for the boy. He did this without saying a word, simultaneously correcting him for his violation of the fast.
Mr. D. Zaverdinos from Stavros related that his fellow villager, captain Lambros Raftopoulos, once went with his ship (a small sailing vessel) to Venice in order to bring back lumber for the church of Saint Barbara that was being built, but it seemed as though the ship would not return. As three months had passed, everyone was upset, believing that there had been a mishap at sea. They turned to Papoulakis to tell them what to do. Having prayed, he told them not to worry because the ship would arrive in six days together with the lumber. Indeed, on the sixth day the ship arrived with the lumber at Mavrona on Ithaki, just as the Elder had foretold.
Dimitrios Paizis (Korkos) from Rachi in Kioni related that when Papoulakis was staying there, his father, Apostolos Korkos, while hauling corn flour, passed by the Elder. The Elder told Mr. Apostolos, “Tell mistress Apostolena [meaning his wife] to bake us a rokissa [a small corn-flour pita].” When he told his wife the blessed one’s instruction, she replied, “Right. Do you think I’m going to sit here dilly-dallying to bake a rokissa for Dalianos [perhaps a novice of the Elder] to eat?” and she continued with her work. A bit later, however — O wonder! — both her clothing and the flax she was working with caught fire, and she herself was in danger of being burnt.
She then understood her mistake, repented, and baked the rokissa for the Elder. He repeated to her the exact same words she had spoken: “What, madam, have you brought; the rokissa for Dalianos to eat?” Moved with contrition, she asked forgiveness for her behavior, and Papoulakis forgave her.
Mr D. Zaverdinos from Stavros recounted the following incident regarding Nikos Moraitis (Tsakos) from Anogi. When he had shorn his sheep, he told his wife to give him a pokario (an amount shorn from one sheep) of wool to take to Papoulakis so that he could make clothing. His wife reacted negatively to this, using their poverty as an excuse, and adding, moreover, that if he should do this, it would become cause for their separation. The husband, however, gathered it secretly in his rucksack, and set off to water his sheep at the spring of Asprosykia, where he was to have met Papoulakis in order to give it to him. Indeed, there on the hill of Hermes on the outskirts of Stavros, he met the Elder instructing his flock under an almond tree. He approached the Elder, and made a bow to the ground. The Elder anticipated him and said, “Nikoli, take what is in your satchel and return it; I won’t keep it.” The shepherd insisted, but the Elder would not accept the gift. When the shepherd had left, Papoulakis told those present, who were of course curious, “I don’t want to be the cause of a couple’s separation.”
Katerina H. Paizi (Lianou) from Vathy related that in Perahori, the Kachrilas family had secretly made a votive promise to donate twelve talers to the church of Saint Barbara. On the day that they had decided to take the votive offering to the church, the husband said to his wife, “You know, I’m only going to give six of the talers, because the monks just fritter it away anyway.” Thus they set off for a certain house where the Elder was staying in order to give that which they had decided upon. Having greeted the Elder and kissed his hand, they placed the six talers that they had agreed on between themselves on the table. The Elder then calmly said to them, “It is superfluous, my children, since the monks just fritter it away anyway.” When the husband heard Papoulakis use exactly the same words he himself had used during the private discussion with his wife, he was distressed and repented. He confessed his error before everyone and presented the remaining six talers, fulfilling the original promise.
L. Patrikios from Vathy recounted the following. Once while Papoulakis was traveling about, he met in Agros a certain wealthy man from Kefallonia (Cephalonia) who was resting in the shade of a tree. The Elder sat down beside him and, after exchanging greetings, told the Kefallonian that they were building a church and did not have enough money — something that distressed him a lot. His companion then said, “Your work is pleasing to God; if I myself had money to give, I would.” The Saint replied, “You could help out, because you went to buy a horse, and you have money left over.” In fact, this prominent man had agreed to buy Noutsatos’s horse for forty-five exentaria, whereas he had been holding forty-six; thus he had money remaining. When the man heard this, he was moved to compunction and marveled at the clairvoyance of the Saint, to whom he readily gave the remaining exentari.
Leonidas Ventouras from Kioni related that D. Miliaresis had agreed with Elder Papoulakis to take him to Preveza for a fare of ten kolonata on his small ship, with a crew consisting of his father and Leonidas Ventouras himself. They set off from Kioni, passed the little island of Thileia, and came to Avlaki, between Levkas and Aitolo-karnania. Because the weather was not so favorable, they moored at Sete on the tip of Avlakas, opposite the fortress of Levkas. The ship’s owner and crew were frequently going out and procuring needed supplies using the Elder’s fare. He himself, however, did not go out at all and remained absorbed in prayer.
When the storm abated, the Saint ordered the ship to set sail, and the elderly father of the ship’s owner went out to untie the boat. But because it was taking him a long time, the Captain yelled at him angrily, “Get on board, you devil, and I’ll go out and untie it.” The old man got back on, the Captain went out and untied the ship, and they set off. They were then between Preveza and Levkas, and the weather seemed very favorable. Despite this, however, Papoulakis called out for them to go back quickly, and the ship turned around. The Saint then told them to moor at the same site where they had docked previously, because the following day they would be able to depart. He himself went down into the ship to pray. Shortly thereafter a squall rose up with terrible whirlwinds, which threatened to swamp the ship. Seeing all of this, and especially the Elder’s supernatural foresight, the shipowner was shaken and exclaimed, “We would’ve really been in trouble if we continued the journey!” “Yes,” the Elder replied, “yesterday you invited the devil to come along and he did just that. Now he’s leaving after causing that disturbance. Next time, be careful about bringing your ship into such a temptation by what you say.” Moved to contrition, the shipowner took Papoulakis’ hand and devoutly kissed it, as did the others. The following morning the Captain ordered that they set sail. The Elder himself sat at the rudder and told the others to row, because danger was once again threatening, and that they needed to arrive quickly, before the bad weather caught them. In fact, as soon as they docked at Preveza, such a great storm broke out that, in order to disembark, they needed help from dry land, where many people were waiting for Papoulakis with devotion.
Dimitrios Zaverdinos from Stavros related that his fellow villager, Efstathios Sykiotis, had once fallen from an olive tree and suffered a severe concussion. He became paralyzed in his lower extremities and unable to help himself for three full years. When Papoulakis saw him, he felt compassion for him and said to his father, “Vasilis, if you want your son to get well, buy a sixty-drachma silver oil lamp for Saint Barbara. Let the injured boy himself take it there and I will pray for him, and he will become well.” The following day, when the distressed father bought the lamp, the sick boy started to get well and began moving his hands and feet. When he took the lamp in his hands, he was able to stand on his feet. He walked to the church of Saint Barbara and handed over the lamp in front of her icon. From then on, he remained completely well and began to work normally. He got married and had children, through the prayers of Papoulakis.
To be continued…Part 9
I received some questions to ponder regarding the alleged miracle of Elder Joseph's postmortem smile reported here. Some have dismissed it as a medical mystery that should not be simply accepted as a miracle without scientific analysis, while others have objected that a piece of cloth can be traced in the photos shutting the mouth of the Elder. I will give my observations in light of these questions.
I agree we should not throw out the word "miracle" for everything we think comes from God unless there is actual confirmation or evidence for it being a supernatural event. So let us examine some simple facts to see if the word "miracle" is applicable to this unusual circumstance. Of course, I am doing this only in light of the acceptance of the Elder's sanctity and the fact that he was a man of many spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. I am furthermore accepting the testimony of the eye-witnesses as true.
To come to a more objective conclusion I went through a bunch of medical sources on the subject of rigamortis, postmortem movements, and even of cases of smiling dead people.
I should point out initially that this "miracle" is not entirely unique in Christian tradition, as is claimed. For eample, according to the biography of St. Symeon Stylite, he would not allow any woman to come near his pillar, not even his own mother, reportedly telling her, "If we are worthy, we shall see one another in the life to come." Martha submitted to this. Remaining in the area, she also embraced the monastic life of silence and prayer. When she died, Symeon asked that her remains be brought to him. He reverently bid farewell to his dead mother, and, according to the account, a smile appeared on her face.
There seems to be a consensus from the various sources that upon death the muscles relax and it takes no less than 2 hours for rigamortis to set it in. Rigamortis lasts any where from 24-36 hours, though it could last a few days longer and unlikely to last any less.
Furthermore, regarding postmortem movement, it appears that this cannot happen during any time while in rigamortis (usually the facial muscles are one of the first to stiffen). Sometimes right after death the body starts convulsing as it releases oxygen and muscles begin to relax which could in turn cause movement. Nothing happens during rigamortis, but when that time ends the muscles will again relax and could cause movement many days after a corpse is deceased.
As far as smiling dead people are concerned, there seems to be a consensus also that it is impossible to have a natural smile while dead no matter how happy you are when dying. Smiling requires muscles and since the muscles relax it cannot be maintained. However, if the head is a bit lifted you could die with your mouth closed and when rigamortis sets in the side muscles of the mouth could make you to appear to be smiling when they stiffen. Also, before embalming, someone could force a smile on a corpse for the funeral.
In the case of Elder Joseph, upon death we know that his muscles relaxed and his mouth opened and he died in that position. Interestingly rigamortis set in quickly while his mouth was open. We know the monks tried to close his mouth for the funeral service but could not. Also, when rigamortis sets in, you cannot tie anything around the mouth to close it either; it must be tied while the muscles are still relaxed and releasing the oxygen. Postmortem movements where rigamortis sets in are impossible also. The amazing fact in all this is that the smile occurred 45 minutes after death while in a state of rigamortis. Also, mouths, like eyes, do not close on their own once opened after death though they can do the opposite.
Also, I studied all the pictures I possess to get a better idea of what happened. Within the first 45 minutes of death it appears that the only thing around Elder Joseph's neck was the Great Schema. The smile actually happened while he was wearing only the Great Schema and nothing else around his neck. Later on at some point they placed a black monastic funeral sheet of some sort around him which in closeup shots make it appear his mouth was tied. Below are some better photographs I found that reveal this.
Is it a miracle? In light of this objective evidence, though I am no expert, I definitely would not dismiss it as not being a miracle. It is certainly unusual and not normal thus making it very appropriate. And usually anything unusual in a saintly person does have a purpose and is more likely to be a miracle rather than in any other normal circumstance.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Jul 30th, 2009
AFP reported on Thursday that the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul, Bartholomew I, was hopeful Turkey would re-open a historic seminary it shut down nearly four decades ago. The Halki Orthodox
Theological Seminary, located on the island of Halki off the coast of Istanbul, was the key Patriarchical institution for educating the Greek Orthodox Community and training its future clergy for more than a century before it was closed down by the Turkish government in 1971.
The Patriarch was responding to signals last week by Turkey’s Culture Minister that Ankara is planning to re-open the Greek seminary, considered vital to the survival of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.
The Turkish Government forcibly closed down the Seminary under a law bringing Turkish universities under the state’s control. Another law, however, made it illegal for anyone to enter the Orthodox priesthood unless they have graduated from Halki.
Since the closure of the Halki Seminary, the Patriarchate has faced insurmountable barriers in staffing the Ecumenical Patriarchate to carry out the Church’s many administrative and spiritual responsibilities. The only option left for the Patriarchate has been to bring clergymen and individuals from abroad to work at the ecumenical patriarchate, often illegally, since the Turkish government does not give them work permits.
Furthermore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has no property rights in Turkey and is taxed beyond excess. Under Turkish law, the General Directorate of Welfare Foundations has the power to unilaterally confiscate minority properties.
Along with the Halki Seminary, the Turkish Government has confiscated (usually secretly) 75 % of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s properties, including homes, apartment buildings, schools, land, churches, monasteries, and even cemeteries.
On March 20, 2006 the government erased the name of the Patriarchate from the ownership deed of the Orphanage of Buyukada, replacing it with the name of a minority foundation it had seized in 1997. This move resulted in the effective confiscation of the orphanage.
The Turkish government proceeded with the confiscation despite an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights by the Patriarchate in 2005. The Orphanage, which is the largest wooden building in Europe, had been a Patriarchal institution, celebrating 550 years of continuous service under the care and guidance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, preserving the Orthodox Faith, Hellenic Ideals and Greek Education.
In the eyes of the Turkish government, the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not exist as a legal entity, and as a result, has virtually no rights. Although it was established in 451 AD, Turkish authorities refuse to recognize the Patriarchate as “Ecumenical” or International. Turkish law has relegated this 2,000 year-old church, which serves as the focal point of Orthodox Christendom, to a Turkish institution.
As a result, the Turkish government also controls the process by which the Ecumenical Patriarch is selected. Through illegal decrees, the government has imposed heavy restrictions on the election of the Ecumenical Patriarchs, requiring the Patriarch and the Hierarchs that elect him to be Turkish citizens. The very existence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been put in jeopardy as a consequence of these decrees.
Turkish law requires that even priests must be Turkish citizens. This excludes eligible clergy from around the world from attending to Turkey’s Greek community, which now numbers less than 3,000—most of which are elderly and not eligible candidates.
There are currently roughly 200 Greek Orthodox Clergymen who live in Turkey and are Turkish citizens. Without the Halki Seminary, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been forced to send its future clerics outside the country for training. Unfortunately, most do not return home. These restrictions severely limit not only who can become a priest, but also who can become the Ecumenical Patriarch.
These policies are wearing away at the Christian presence in Turkey and threaten to eventually wipe out the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which stands as a 2,000 year-old spiritual beacon for more than 300,000 million orthodox Christians around the world.
Since 1923, successive Turkish Governments have subjected the Ecumenical Patriarchate to a protracted and systemic campaign of institutional and cultural repression, squeezing the country’s Greek minority and its religious institutions to the point of complete exhaustion and despair.
Despite direct stipulations in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that Turkey must legally recognize and protect its religious minorities, Christian communities in Turkey currently face unfair official restrictions regarding the ownership and operation of churches and seminaries. The Turkish Government interferes in the selection of their religious leaders. Christian education has all but vanished, while freedom of expression and association, although provided for on paper, tend to get people killed.
This political climate of religious repression has, for decades, encouraged extremists to attack the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul defacing its walls and desecrating its cemeteries.
In 1955, riots broke out in Istanbul and quickly turned into pogroms against Greeks as 73 Orthodox churches and 23 schools were vandalized, burned, or destroyed; 1,004 houses of Orthodox citizens were looted; and 4,348 stores, 110 hotels, 27 pharmacies, and 21 factories were destroyed. The Greek Orthodox population in 1955 was 100,000. In 1998, a Greek Orthodox official was murdered at his church, Saint Therapon, in Istanbul. The church was then robbed and set on fire.
Growing focus on Turkey in recent years and the country’s bid to join the European Union, has raised awareness and concern about the fate of the Patriarchate among governments, organizations and people around the world.
The European Union has long asked Turkey to re-open the seminary in order to prove its commitment to human rights as it strives to become a member of the bloc.
The Turkish Government, keen to boost its European credentials as it seeks EU membership, says it may finally take steps to prevent the destruction of one of the world’s oldest Christian churches and its Congregation.
The bitter reality is that the very existence of the Patriarchate has been threatened by the very government that is now vaguely promising to save it.
Turkish authorities have been issued such promises for decades.
This picture was recently published in the Greek newspaper Kathimerini to show that Alexander the Great, who was a Macedonian, was also a Hellene. From a 16th century perspective, therefore, ancient Macedonia was a part of Hellas (Greece) and not a seperate nation as is commonly held by todays so-called Macedonians. The mural is dated to 1568 from the Monastery of Dochiariou on Mount Athos.
The exact inscription says for the left “Βασιλεύς Ελλήνων Αλέξανδρος” (Alexander King of the Hellenes) and on the right it says “Βασιλεύς Ρωμαίων Αύγουστος” (Augustus King of the Romans).
It should be noted that the term "Hellenes" in the mural refers to ethnicity and not the fact that they were idol worshippers, since Augustus, who even though called a Roman, was also an idol worshipper. Also, this is not the Emperor Alexander who ruled from 912-913 A.D. since this Emperor would not have been called a King of the Hellenes but rather "King of the Romans". No Roman Emperor ever called himself "King of the Hellenes". Furthermore, the Roman Emperor Alexander would have been out of place here since what is clearly being depicted are ancient Kings.
For more information, see here.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
...continued from Part 6
VARIOUS MIRACLES OF SAINT JOACHIM
A woman named Roza, of the Petalas family, was married in Akarnania. Her husband suffered from atrophy of his right arm, and this evoked repugnance within his insensitive spouse who openly expressed her revulsion for the afflicted man. After some time, however, she herself became ill with a more serious sickness, myelitis, which brought about a paralysis of the lower members of her body. Unable to raise herself from bed, she was moved from Akarnania to her paternal home in Exoge in order for her mother to take care of her. For three full years she suffered terribly, beyond any hope of human help. Realizing now the seriousness of her prior inappropriate behavior toward her spouse, she detested herself, recognizing that because of her callousness she had been abandoned to this chastisement by God. Finding no other consolation, the hapless and paralyzed Roza sought refuge in the unsalaried doctor, Elder Papoulakis, who went to visit her at her home in Exoge. Feeling sympathy for the sick woman, the holy Elder blessed her secretly and told her in a compassionate way, “My child, buy an oil lamp for the church of Saint Barbara and I will pray to God, and your faith will save you.” And so it happened. Having bought the lamp as the holy father had instructed, the former paralytic recovered her ability to use her limbs and in a short time became completely well, remaining ever grateful to the blessed one.
Dionysios Paxinos from Stavros related that Papoulakis had healed a woman and her child. The mother was suffering from a severe, festering inflammation of the eyes, and the child, from eclampsia, a seizure disorder. The Elder healed them through his prayer. Having made the sign of the cross over them with his staff, he conversed with them privately and disclosed to them what they were to offer in recompense if he healed them. This conversation was held in secret, at a distant and remote place.
Another time, while Blessed Joachim was coming from Saint Elias in Kioni, he became thirsty along the way. To a girl named Theodorella who offered him water, he foretold that she would become the wife of a priest, and then he blessed her. Indeed, later this happened just as Saint Papoulakis had prophesied.
In the community of Rapezi at Parga in Epirus, Papoulakis miraculously appeared to the priest there, without knowing the area by sight, and he told him to urge all those who had made votive promises to the church of Saint Barbara not to delay in fulfilling them. The priest did remind the donors, and they gathered together their votive offerings and sent them by boat for Saint Barbara’s. Papoulakis foresaw the delivery and was waiting at Mavronas for the ship’s arrival; he was there to take delivery of the offerings, without anyone having informed him of their arrival.
Once, blessed Papoulakis wanted to go over to Preveza, and he proposed to a ship’s captain who was preparing to go there that he take him along. The captain, however, failed to notify him when he set off. After he arrived at the dock of Preveza, he was astonished to see the Elder walking on the shore, because there was no other ship, nor was there any other means to carry him across. Stunned and ashamed, the captain bowed low to him and asked forgiveness for his indifference.
One time, again in his own area, a mentally ill woman of loose morals had given birth to an illegitimate child, and in order to be rid of the infant, she put it in a roasting pan and lit the oven in order to burn it up. From where he was, Papoulakis foresaw her scheme and quickly sent an old woman to avert the evil deed. They gave the child to be raised in a suitable environment, and the sick woman was placed in a psychiatric hospital on Kerkyra (Corfu).
A young woman from Crete, one of the refugees of 1866, suffered for a long time from arthritis and from a stiffening of her right knee. Once when blessed Papoulakis saw her, he felt sorry for her; he made the sign of the cross over her with his staff, accompanied by a suitable prayer. After a short time, the sick woman was healed and was able to walk normally.
When the blessed Elder was building the church of Saint Barbara, at one point the project had financial difficulties, and he was unable to pay the workmen. Having decided to ask a certain wealthy man in Stavros named Nicholas to help with the situation, he went to visit him at his home. The first meeting was cool and reserved, even though the man nonchalantly asked the Elder how the construction was going. “Fine,” answered the Elder, “but we are in need of money; this is why I’ve come to you, to ask your help so that we can pay the workers from Anogi.” “And how much are you looking for, monk?” Nicholas asked. “I need sixty talers (a five-drachma coin),” replied the Elder. This seemed a lot to Mr. Nicholas, and he turned down his request, using the excuse that he did not have that much. “I pray you will always have everything you deserve,” said the Elder, and he left.
That night, however, the master was in turmoil because of continual terrible nightmares; in particular, he would see Papoulakis in front of him threatening him. Consequently, he was not able to sleep at all that night because of his distress and fear. In the morning, he called his attendant, Stathis Kouros, and told him, “Go quickly and find the monk. My conscience is bothering me and I suffered all night; I was wrong to refuse him.” As soon as the attendant met Papoulakis, and before he told him the reason for his coming, the Elder anticipated him, saying, “Is it true, Stathis, that the master has changed his mind?” “Yes, dear father, you terrified him during the night; he requests to see you right away.” They went together to Mr. Nicholas’s home, where he received him with respect and kissed his hand. “You ‘opened my eyes’ last night, holy monk, and I want to have your blessing. How many talers do you want?” “Sixty talers, and whatever else God inspires you to give,” the Elder replied. He readily counted out the sixty talers, and the Elder thanked the man and blessed him, after he had escorted him as far as the outer gate.
Another time, when Papoulakis was at Vathy on Ithaki, he went at a late hour and knocked at an old woman’s door. She asked who it was and what he wanted. The Elder insisted that she open up for him. When she opened the door and he went inside, he greeted her and then told her in an enigmatic way that heads of families must be attentive to their duties. She replied, “At such an hour, little Father?” “We monks don’t have hours, but hasten to wherever duty calls us. You should not leave the gunpowder close to the fire. As long as the coals are covered by their ashes they are inactive, but when the wind blows and removes the ashes, what will happen to the gunpowder?” “It will ignite, of course,” she responded. The elder repeated these words three times and left. As he was leaving, the woman was pondering what the meaning of these words might be, since she knew that Papoulakis never spoke without a reason. Then it occurred to her that in the house she had her two daughters in one room and a young stranger sleeping in another room together with her boys. The one daughter was having thoughts about sinning with the stranger. Consequently, the woman got her two daughters up from that room and kept them close to her for the rest of that night, thwarting the Devil’s plan. By the Grace of God, the blessed Elder foresaw what would have happened in the middle of the night, and rushed off to prevent the evil deed. Truly, “the wise man’s eyes are in his head” (Eccl. 2:14).
As D. Paxinos from Stavros, Ithaki, related, a poverty-stricken widow lived in his village with her children. Whenever they were in need of something, Papoulakis would provide for them by secretly tossing it through the hole in the door, without anyone having mentioned anything to him. Once, he sent one of the widow’s young children to take a letter to Abbot Agapios of the Holy Monastery of the Angelic Commanders (Taxiarchon) in Perahori. The young boy carried out the request and delivered the letter, which the devout Abbot kissed three times out of pious respect for the holy monk Papoulakis. Out of an excessive sympathy for the child because of his labor in bringing the letter, the Abbot pressed the boy to eat olive oil, even though it was Friday.
To be continued…Part 8